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Collection Policy

JPL Archives Collection Statement


The mission of the JPL Archives is to identify, collect, preserve, and make available for research the historically valuable permanent records (i.e., records of enduring value) and oral history collection of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Through the preservation of these records and interviews the research and development activities and administrative operations of JPL from the Laboratory’s beginnings in the late 1930s to the present are documented.

Collection Philosophy

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s primary mission is the robotic exploration of space, the solar system, and the Earth, in order to foster human  understanding of our universe. Its archival collections reflect this mission so that historians in the future can recover JPL’s efforts. In addition to this  material, we also intend to conduct and collect oral histories with laboratory personnel and with select NASA officials. Finally, we collect and add to our Historical Reference collection documents created at JPL or generated by organizations other than JPL but that are 1) relevant to JPL’s activities, 2) useful for background research or reference on JPL-related historical  events, 3) or helpful to historians reconstructing context.

The Core Collection

The JPL archive has two different tasks that need to be balanced: it must provide access to the records of prior projects, whatever their format, for the lab’s researchers, and it must provide access to records for historians. If storage space in the archives and its electronic repository, and resources for processing materials to make them available were unconstrained, this would not be problematic. But that is not the case. Service to the lab community takes precedence within the archives, and records still in active use by the lab community will be retained either in the onsite facility, the offsite (contractor-operated) facility, or electronic archives. As part of the core collection, the archives will focus on records related to the lab’s primary mission of robotic space and planetary exploration, the development of technology to support this mission, and to the lab’s evolution as an institution.

Reference Collection

JPL has an historical collection begun by R. Cargill Hall that is synthetic in nature, collected from a variety of sources, and including copies made from other JPL collections. This is the Historical Reference Collection. Some examples from the most current series (16- ) of documents in Historical Reference Collection are: final report of the Galileo Project, Jack James’ privately published autobiography, a program for the JPL Open House held in November 1948, and press releases from the Embassy of the USSR on Sputnik.

What the JPL Archives Does Not Collect

1. Collections of formal JPL documents, such as JPL D-numbered documents. These are collected, scanned, permanently retained, and made available by Engineering Document Services. The Archives collaborates with EDS to make sure that new documents it receives are included in the Document and Image Management System (DIMS) before they are dispositioned.
2. Collections of miscellaneous papers and/or documents, formal or informal, where the bulk are not related to JPL’s primary mission.
3. Non-record material such as memorabilia.
4. Materials not primarily related to JPL, its origins, its employees, or its activities.